When the Bim escaped Kent Town with his new love Mary a few weeks ago, it was to a little village about seven miles away. A different world. A good move. And after comforting Anna-mouse through several anxious pre-move nights, it was thankfully a move that has proved popular with her, too.
One of the things the Bim and I tried to do after we separated was to give Anna-mouse the odd day out, when he she and I did something together as the family that we used to be. These occasions were often bitter-sweet, usually pretty successful, and only once or twice too painful for words.
Since Mary and the Bim have made a life together, these occasions have tailed off, but yesterday, with Mary out of town, the three of us found ourselves together almost by accident, attending the village hall's fifty year anniversary fete.
It was a sweet, gentle affair straight out of the 1940s, in a traditional little hall with wooden rafters. Tables manned by locals lined the walls offering raffles, tombolas and craftsy activities for the children. My favourite was a free stall manned by a local gardener, fingernails black with compost, who was showing any child who would listen how to plant up daffodil bulbs for the spring.
The Bim and I were almost superfluous to the wealth of opportunities for kids, and found ourselves standing about chatting as Anna-mouse decorated a CD turned candle holder with glitter, and strung up a necklace. This last activity was run by the local vicar, a compact young man with prematurely greying hair and fraying dog collar. He got talking to the Bim, who told him how 'we' had just moved into the village, and because appearances deceive and with no reason to believe otherwise, the young man assumed of course that I was part of the 'we'.
How strange this is, I thought. Everything apparently the way it was, and yet actually not at all.
I don't mind, I just don't know what to feel when people mistake us for the happy family we are not, which, to our credit, happens more often than not. We have flummoxed teachers at Anna-m's school by our united front, and mothers of Anna-mouse's friends have been astounded when I say no, we're not together. We haven't been together for years.
As we were leaving the fete, the three of us laden with Anna-mouse's spoils and laughing at her dalmatian face painting, a woman caught up in our happy atmosphere stopped to ask us if we were attending the evening's concert. There were two tickets left, she said, but then I suppose you'd have to get a baby sitter, and it is short notice... And then she invited us to attend the family prayer meetings, designed especially for families with children like us and run by the nice young man with the dog collar, on a Wednesday evening. Without even glancing at each other to corroborate our stories, the Bim and I played the part to save her feelings and went on our way. Welcome to the village! she called after us.
Well, what could we have said?
No, sorry, you've got it wrong - this is my husband, this is my child, but I did not move into the village last week. My husband moved here with his new love. My daughter stays here at weekends. This weekend my husband's new love has gone back to see her children. Yes, quite complicated! We are still married, but we're going to get divorced. Quite soon now, actually. No, that's all right, I know what it looks like. We just decided, for our daughter, that we'd be friends. At all costs. Yes.